EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Michael McMullen recalls life in Chapleau celebrating hockey victory, earning 'real money' setting pins and listening to popular radio shows

MJM and Michael McMullen, co-authors 'The Chapleau Boys Go To War' 2015
UPDATED ON SEPTEMBER 5, 2015: Michael McMullen is the co-author of 'The Chapleau Boys go To War'.

The book is available in Chapleau at the Chapleau Village Shops, on amazon.ca, amazon.com and Kindle.  Key words: 'chapleau boys war'

Michael McMullen's memories of growing up in Chapleau in the early 1950s won him the first annual Buckwheat Award for most popular story on the blog. The award is named after my beloved cat Buckwheat, who died in November 2009 at 20 years and two months old.. MJM

Michael McMullen lived in Chapleau from 1952-54 when his father Keith came to work for the Austin Lumber company, but his roots in the community go back to 1885 when his great great uncle Patrick Mulligan (and mine) arrived and opened one of the first general stores, called Murrays and Mulligan General Merchants.

After reading Michael's family history of his grandparents, William and May (Mulligan) McMullen, both of whom lived in Chapleau in the early years of the 20th Century, I asked him if I might share some of his recollections of life in Chapleau. He agreed and his recollections capture much of life as it was for us growing up in Chapleau during the early Fifties.
Book presentation to Donald White, 102, World War2 vet from Chapleau

"I have fond memories of that time and still have many friendships that have endured since then," Michael wrote. "More importantly, I met my wife, Alison, during this period. She is the daughter of Leslie and Margaret (Jack) McMillan and sister of David McMillan. Les was a CPR locomotive engineer who operated out of Chapleau for over 25 years, retiring in 1966." Mr. McMillan also served as a member of Chapleau township council.

After arriving in Chapleau, Michael and his parents lived for a time in the offices of Austin Lumber on the second floor of the building at the northwest corner of Birch and Young Streets. Their bedrooms were in two of the separate enclosed offices. "There was a Dominion store on the first floor. (later the Bank of Montreal). Years later I would discover that this was the building that Patrick Mulligan had rebuilt in 1895 following a fire at his original store on this site."

"I remember the good times that a kid could have, particularly in a small town. There was a ball field behind the high school where everyone played ball on a summer evening, the natural ice arena, which was the place to go for skating on a Friday night and to play hockey on a Saturday during the winter.

"We also played road hockey on the snow packed, icy streets, particularly on Aberdeen Street, not with a ball, but with a real puck.

"I remember playing bantam hockey for the Chapleau Huskies team when we won the first Broomhead Trophy in 1953-54... It was an exciting 4-3 victory in overtime over the IOOF team.... We went to celebrate at the Boston Cafe where Harry (Boo Boo) Hong, one of my teammates got his mother to open their family restaurant for our celebration. That game is still mentioned among those of us who played."

(In the photo are in  back row from left Basil Collings, Mike McMullen, Mrs. Broomhead, David McMillan, Richard Pilon, Tim Goodwin. Front row from left Charlie White, Ken Schroeder, Harry 'Boo' Hong  In the ball photo, Michael is at bat and his cousin David Curry  is the catcher.)

He also recalled that it was on an empty lot to the west of the Boston Cafe that he first participated in building an outdoor skating/hockey rink. "Boo Boo Hong asked me, and several others to help him and his brothers (Yen and Jimmy) to do this." This was where the Bridgeview Motel until recently owned by Yen Hong was built. It was also location where Patrick Mulligan had built a warehouse and post office.

Michael noted that when they first arrived in Chapleau they stayed at the Rectory of St. John's Anglican Church where Reverend E. Roy Haddon (the Rector at the time) and family lived at the southwest corner of Pine and Young Street with a tennis court beside it. The Haddons were on vacation at the time. The house was nearly opposite the church... To the right (east) was the Town Hall and then beside it was Chapleau Public School which he would attend. To the left of the church on the west was Chapleau High School.

"I would discover that right beside the high school was where Alison and family lived."

He would learn later that the original Anglican church in Chapleau was built in 1885 on the site where the tennis court was located. "I would also appreciate that my father and most of his siblings, if not all, were baptized at the current St. John's, which was opened in 1908, and went to the same public school I did"

As an aside, it should be noted that Michael's father Keith, and his grandfather, William McMullen, both served as Wardens at St. John's. His father was People's Warden when Mr. Haddon was the Rector and his grandfather was Rector's Warden in the time of Rev. J.N. Blodgett.

In photo are from left Michael, his parents Margret and Keith McMullen and me, taken in 1955

Michael recalled earning "some real money" for the first time in Chapleau. Mrs. Elsie Wilkinson, the widow of Dr. Steve Wilkinson paid him 25 cents to cut the grass on her property on Beech Street with her hand mower once a week.

"I was a pin boy at the bowling alley for probably 15-20 cents an hour. I was down at the end of the alley where the pins were placed. My responsibility was to properly position the pins during each frame, and to put the balls in the track to return to the players. As I recall, I was looking after two lanes at one time. You had to be alert because of where the pin could go after being hit. There was a foot slot at the end of the bowling lane that you stepped on that pushed the pins up from the floor for each of the five bowling pins to be placed on."

The bowling alley was located across on Birch Street across from the Chapleau News Depot store.

Michael also helped Raymond Soucie a number of times to pick worms to sell to fishermen for about 25 cents a container. He noted that in the early 1950s, 25 cents went a long way, as admission to the theatre was only 15-20 cents. Michael and I also delivered flyers for Simpsons order office which had been recently established in Chapleau.

"In the days before television, a radio was a great thing to have," Michael recalled. Radio was non existent during the day until the CBC installed repeater stations, but "... as the sun was going down the reception started to come in and after sundown the reception was really good, particularly for powerful stations from cities in the United States, such as Fort Wayne (WOWO), Pittsburgh (KDKA) and Boston (WBZ)."

Michael remembers some of the popular radio shows such as the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, the Green Hornet and Inner Sanctum with "its scary squeaky door at the beginning of the program. Canadian shows such as Wayne and Shuster, and the Happy Gang were very popular. We got the Saturday night hockey games, usually from Toronto with Foster Hewitt and the Toronto Maple Leafs."

He liked listening to baseball games particularly his favorite team at the time, the Brooklyn Dodgers. They were on WMGM, 1050 on the dial from New York and the sponsors were Lucky Strike and Schaefer beer. Vince Scully was the junior announcer and he is still calling games for the Los Angeles Dodgers. On weekends there were baseball games on the United States Armed Forces Network on short wave radio with Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner.

After moving to Toronto in 1954, Michael did not return to Chapleau until the Chapleau High School reunion in 1997. Many changes had taken place in the 43 years since he left. The old Patrick Mulligan store was gone as was the natural ice arena on Lorne Street replaced by the Chapleau Recreation Centre on the other side of town. The movie theatre had closed, and the YMCA was gone as well. The ball field that was behind the high school was still there but the school had moved. The Chapleau Civic Centre was in its place.

But some things had not changed for him. The Boston Cafe, which had become Hongers, was still there and still owned by the Hong family. Chapleau Public School was in the same place and to him it appeared the same inside and out.

Before leaving Chapleau in 1954, Michael remembers going to the old Protestant Cemetery on Birch Street with his friend the late Harry (Boo Boo) Hong.

"(Boo Boo)... asked me to help him do some landscaping at the grave of his father. We got a wheelbarrow, two shovels and went there. The plot had sunk and needed some earth so we went to a nearby field and hauled earth back to do the work.

"While repairing the site, I browsed at the nearby plots and to my surprise, one of the plots close by, at the back fence, was the location of my grandfather William McMullen. It needed the same work as the Hong site. So, we hauled more earth and put both plots in a condition, which pleased us both."

Michael and his parents appear to have been the last of his McMullen line to live in Chapleau. However, some years ago, Dr. Bill McMullen from Sudbury was one of the medical doctors who came to Chapleau on a periodic basis to provide medical services. Bill is the eldest son of Hugh McMullen, his father's older brother. I am the last of the Patrick Mulligan line to have lived in Chapleau. My grandmother, Lil (Mulligan) Morris and Michael and Bill's grandmother May (Mulligan) McMullen were sisters.

My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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